Archive for April, 2012

Thanks for the Support: “Solar Farms in New Jersey Can Help Light the World, Preserve the Planet”

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

As we approach our conceivably  last meeting in front of the zoning board in Hamilton Township tonight, which holds the destiny of the Black Solar Farm in Hamilton Square, Mercer County, we love to see the support from those who have been there in the town meetings from the beginning and sat through those seemingly endless nights of abuse over the proposed solar farm and what everyone would prefer to see done with Barry Black’s land, other than what he wants to do with it.

Trenton Times

Opinion: Solar farms in New Jersey can help light the world, preserve the planet
Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012, 6:20 AM

By Brian D. Haig

As financial troubles are casting long shadows across the state, New Jerseyans have little time for less immediate concerns. However, we must look toward the environmental future of our state.

There in an ongoing debate in Hamilton Township over a use variance request for 60 acres of what used to be farmland in the township’s Rural Resource Conservation Zone.

BKB Properties has proposed a sustainable plan to build 42,000 solar panels and housing on the property. While critics cite unsightliness, land loss and soil degradation, they fail to truly consider the benefits.

The issue of unsightliness is moot. BKB Properties plans to surround the site with fencing and landscaping that would hide the panels.

As for land loss, it is important to remember that this land is currently unused. Although it may once have been farmland, it has not been cultivated for some time.

While some may not consider the proposed solar farm ideal, it is far more productive than the land’s current state. What’s more, no other uses seem to have been proposed for it.

The fear of soil degradation is largely supported by speculation from experts who, while knowledgeable, admit that soil degradation is merely a possibility — one that other professionals have determined to be unlikely. The developers have said they will make efforts to preserve the soil’s fertility. One such plan is to cultivate low-lying crops under portions of the panels, which will help to keep the soil rich. With the opposition’s arguments adequately addressed, it is important to now look at the benefits.

Most of Hamilton’s energy is provided by PSE&G’s Mercer Station, which generates power by burning coal, gas and oil. The resulting emissions contain toxic particulate matter that contaminates the air we breathe and eventually even enters the water we drink. Also of great concern is the emission of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. The extent of the dangers posed by the emissions from PSE&G’s Mercer Station are made clear when we consider that, according to, the power plant is Mercer County’s leading source of pollution. In addition, the coal, gas and oil that are burned are non-renewable fossil fuels; they do not regenerate.

The proposed solar facility would be able to provide energy to 2,000 homes, using a renewable resource that has no adverse environmental impacts. And although the energy produced would not be able to replace the energy provided by PSE&G entirely, it would certainly decrease the amount of energy needed from burning fossil fuels.
We should also take note that only a portion of the 60 acres in question is intended to be used for the solar farm. BKB Properties plans to donate a segment of the property to a charity that will use it to build homes for disabled veterans returning from war.

The benefits of granting BKB Properties’ use variance request go beyond environmental preservation and supporting our wounded warriors. Additional benefits would be felt at the local level.

Building the facility would temporarily provide jobs for local construction workers and landscapers. This economic boost would help struggling families who rely on development for their living. And for the township, the facility would provide $70,000 in taxes annually. While this is not an impressive amount, it is certainly more than the land currently yields.

By allowing the construction of BKB Properties’ proposed solar farm, Hamilton residents would be taking one more step toward a sustainable lifestyle. The town might even inspire other parts of the county, the state or even the country to follow suit.

Even in these times of financial hardship, it is imperative that we work toward a better future, not only for our own state, but for the world. It is, therefore, only logical that development of the proposed Hamilton solar farm be allowed. The benefits will be felt at a local level immediately. And with time, the facility will play a small role in the struggle to preserve our global environment. The solar farm would provide Hamilton with sustainable energy from a renewable source and provide New Jersey with an example of an environmentally responsible township.

‘Environmentalists get heated over would-be solar site in Hamilton’

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Landscape Rendering For The Black Solar Farm

Isn’t that an oxymoron – “Environventalists get heated over solar farm” ?

Zoning board meeting March 13, 2012

HAMILTON –Tuesday night marked another long, tense zoning board hearing as environmentalists and witnesses testifying for the would-be developer of a massive solar site in Groveville squared off for a third time.

The site in question, a 60-acre property off Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road, would become home to a ground-mounted solar site under plans presented by Hamilton-based developers Barry Black Sr. and his son Barry Black Jr., doing business as BKB Properties.

No decision on the site, which would require a use variance from the zoning board, has been made yet.

The board carried the hearing to a fourth meeting March 28.

The project is opposed by the environmental group Save Hamilton Open Space.

Tuesday night’s testimony focused mainly on how the 10-megawatt site — and its 42,000 photovoltaic panels — would be landscaped and screened from neighbors.

But with the testimony came no shortage of bickering between John Alice, an attorney for the developers, or Michele Donato, a lawyer representing Save Hamilton Open Space.

Zoning board attorney Michael Balint even got into it, chastising the two for arguing and telling Alice the plans he was presenting seemed to change from week to week.

“This seems to be a moving target and each time you come, we seem to hear something different about what it’s going to be,” Balint said. “You guys have said a lot of things so when I look through my notes, one week it’s one thing, the next month it’s something different.”

Much of the confusion stemmed from inconsistencies in setback and landscaping details.

The plan previously included a berm around the property that would be planted with trees and shrubs, but landscaper Jim Kerr, testifying on behalf of the Blacks, said berms are more trouble than they are worth.

He advised planting staggered rows of native species like evergreens and maples, as well as fast-growing shrubs like hollies, to hide the solar site from the road and residents who live nearby.

“We want to make it look as natural as possible, plants planted flush with the grade,” he said. “You have 30 feet of berms with plants jammed in, and it looks horrible.”

Other witnesses, including a field biologist and professional planner and engineer, testified on the likelihood of the land retaining its agriculturally rich soils and how the site would fit in with Hamilton’s new solar ordinance, which attempts to restrict large-scale solar projects to industrial areas of the township.

Most of the opposition to the Black project has stemmed from its location in the rural resource conservation zone, a stretch in Hamilton’s southeast corner that remains one of the least developed parts of the sprawling suburb.

“This site’s location is not manufacturing along the river or an industrial zone in the north, but I think it’s an appropriate location,” planner and engineer Tim Kernan said.

Nearby residents and members of Save Hamilton Open Space disagreed.

“Hamilton has very limited amount of open space left,” Save Hamilton Open Space president Ed Pfeiffer said. “About 11 percent of Hamilton remains undeveloped at this point and most of it is in the rural resource conservation zone.”

A group of union carpenters and construction workers, including Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) sat in on the meeting. They have supported the project as a much-needed job creator.

Pfeiffer and others said the solar installation jobs would be only temporary, but construction worker Joseph Sary said the ailing construction market could use all the help it can get.

“We need this work,” he said. “This isn’t just putting money in our pockets, it’s feeding our family, paying our mortgage, allowing us to stay in this township.”